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Blacktop Mojo Pollen, an Evolution of Sound

It’s late at night and I find myself in a rare position. I’m up late waiting for the new Blacktop Mojo to drop. Pollen will be available shortly and needless to say, the songs released up to this point have certainly gotten my attention. Even to the point I’m waiting for the release of a new album. I’ve not done that in a long long time.

You see, when you’ve been following a band for so long, you get used to a style. Statement songs. You hear a bit of different style now and then as a change of pace. In all, Blacktop Mojo has definitely been on the harder grunge side of rock and roll with some slower stuff mixed in to give you some breathing room. But things change. And that change can sometimes be exceptional. It is sure worth staying up late to hear it the very minute it becomes available.

Now, how do I explain it? Especially if you’re new to the band and you don’t have the history. Well, to best illustrate such a change, we’re going to need to recap the history of this amazing Texas band. I came in with Burn the Ships and have been a fan ever since. We even recorded the first live performance of Underneath. You could see then something cool was happening. Something special.

I Am, their first release, set a harder paced tone right off the bat. My favorite from that release, I Will Ramble On. Back Home would be their change of pace.

2017 brought us Burn the Ships and they stayed the course. Burn the Ships, Dog on a Leash, and their cover that Matt James simply nails in every way imaginable, Dream On. But I noticed something – Prodigal and Underneath. Lyrically the band is rising to the top in not only the sound of their music, but the depth of their lyrics. And when they change pace, they change the hell out of it.

Skip on up to 2019 and Under the Sun is released. Right off the bat Lay it on Me has you moving to the fast paced hard hitting rock you’ve come to love. But we’re seeing a subtle shift. Growth, if you will. It Won’t Last brings in more blues and the feeling is more “haunting” than the previous releases. This is their “change of pace” representation for this effort.

2021 comes along and we get a self-titled effort and here is where you see a shift if the making. You’ll hear what you know and love in Wicked Woman and their blues continuation of Tail Lights. But Cough and Rewind do a little “hey bud, check this out” More of a mainstream feel, but done in the way only Blacktop Mojo could do it.

And here we are. Today the guys released Pollen, their latest effort. While we waited for this date, we’ve been teased with a song here and there released to give us a glimpse of what is coming.

Released ahead of the rest, Red Enough, Like Wild Horses, As the Light Fades and I Can’t Tell show have one thing in common. They represent a massive shift in style as none of these are going to make people mosh in a pit or fling 3 feet of hair around a spinning motion. They all “feel” both different and the same at the same time. Hey, that ain’t no easy trick but if you’ve listened, you’ll understand. They are more “mainstream” but in a “you’ve not heard this before” style.

In these (4) pre-release songs, I hear grunge, blues, amazing lyrics and the like you’re used to hearing from BTM, (blacktop mojo, btw), but done differently. The standout of the 4 is hard to choose because I play all 4 every chance I get. But As the Light Fades is a pure capture of 70s style country rock. Blacktop Mojo channelling some Outlaws and maybe some Mellencamp. What I don’t hear is the hard driving music you’ve come to know.

Hey, it’s midnight. Now that Pollen is released, you gotta ask yourself “did they really evolve”?

Damn straight they did.

The End is Gonna Come feels traditional BTM. I can already see Catt groovin while he slaps the bass. You have the intensity you’re used to; but it feels different now. More personal. But yea, there is some traditional Mojo in the mix.

Weary I roam. Yea, Im going to be listening to this one. A lot. If any song so far is a bridge between yesterday and tomorrow, this is it. Today.

Looking at the credits for Rise, you got an all-star cast here with Shaman’s Harvest and Nathan Hunt. And it shows.

Im going to force myself to stop talking about the rest of the release and let you discover it on your own. What I can say is the evolution is certainly a huge step forward for the band. With Pollen, you see a ton of growth. You hear their own life put into music. The good, the bad, the painful and the joys. The guys have always been lyrically some of the best out there. But this, this is more. I think frontman Matt James puts it best in his recent facebook post.

It sure shows, Mr James. It sure shows.

After seeing the band live several times and photographing most of them, you get to see the small changes that lead up to the big ones. You catch some of the less heard cuts off each album and you find your own favorites. The style you appreciate the most. What I appreciate the most is the evolution and growth of their style. It can be easy to rise in popularity and stay true to the course that got you there. I can safely say that while the bands core sound and style is still there, the style has evolved into something special.

Something very, very, special.

While I don’t know what changes the band may have in store for future songs and directions, I can safely say with total confidence is going to be an amazing ride.

Your best so far, guys. Your very best.

Band members
Matt James – lead vocals (2012–present)
Nathan Gillis – drums (2012–present)
Matt Curtis – bass, backing vocals (2015–present)
Malcolm Booher – lead guitar, backing vocals (2021–present)
Ryan Kiefer – lead guitar (2012–2022); rhythm guitar (2023-present)

Blacktop Mojo, Paris, TX Oct 2023 – entire gallery


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